As the Chicago Blackhawks head into the 2023-24 season, they have a loaded pipeline of prospects. Where it gets difficult, is determining exactly where they are on their journey and how that plays into their ranking.
Instead of writing a longer 2000+ word piece, CHN has opted to write ten shorter pieces that lays out the reasoning for the spot in their respective ranking. Believe me, looking at the list it’s not a simple notion outside of #1, which is a slam dunk. Essentially, the considerations with rankings worked like this:
- Where is this current prospect in their readiness with the Blackhawks? A Lukas Reichel is much closer compared to a Gavin Hayes.
- How does the current prospect rank out in terms of their ceiling as opposed to other prospects on the list?
- How has the prospect performed within their respective league–and how does that league rank out against others?
The tenth best prospect in the pipeline is Nolan Allan.
Allan Took Major Strides With Seattle
Of the three prospects in Seattle, it seemed like Kevin Korchinski and Colton Dach got a little more attention. But Allan quietly went about his job and was steady in the postseason. What stood out to me most about Allan, however, was his situational awareness. I wrote this back in June following Seattle’s 5-0 Memorial Cup Final loss using two instances in the title game:
On one, when his pairing partner Jeremy Hanzel was caught pinching, it led to a two-on-one rush the other way. Allan not only cut off the angle, but then corralled the puck near the end boards, patiently waiting to clear it out.
Throwing it to the middle or making too quick of a play leads to a high danger scoring chance with help still rushing down the ice. On the offensive side of the ice, Allan and the Thunderbirds had one of their best chances of the game when the puck ended up on his stick. Instead of shooting into the crowd, Allan fired to the end board, which spat the puck back out in front. Though no one would capitalize, it was a heads up that play that created something out of nothing.
To no one’s surprise, Allan’s efforts earned him Memorial Cup All-Star Team honors.
Despite this, Allan has been what I dub the “forgotten prospect” for a number of reasons, which I’ll go into more in the ETA section.
When he was drafted, it was for his steadiness in his own zone as well as his ability to shutdown opposing rushes. There wasn’t a lot of stock put into the offensive side of his game, which was seen as something that could develop in time.
In spite of that, when mentioned with other defensive prospects, it’s Allan who is often the “oh yeah” reaction when his name is brought up.
A Team and Draft Strategy in Transition
When the Blackhawks took him 32nd overall, using a trade to do so, it was considered a massive reach. Pundits thought he could have been taken in the second or even third round. The solid bodied, defensive minded Allan already had a strike against him in many people’s minds–through no fault of his own.
Three months later Stan Bowman was gone, and then Kyle Davidson took over, taking Korchinski with the seventh overall pick and then Sam Rinzel with the 25th at the 2022 NHL Draft. Again, through no fault of his own, that 32nd pick in 2021 felt more like the 320nd. The attention shifted to the new group and the new mentality that emphasized speed.
It wasn’t that Allan couldn’t skate, either. It was more that with the newer guys coming in, he was just “kinda there” in the pipeline. Don’t forget either, he won a Gold Medal with Canada at the World Juniors.
But his play over the last two years should put him more on the radar now that he’s going to Rockford.
Allan Heads To Rockford
I cannot reiterate enough that the Blackhawks will have a good problem on their hands a year from now. There will be an absolute glut of defenseman jockeying for a spot with Chicago. Three are already there (and will be profiled in the honorable mentions) and some veterans will already be supplanted. But the likes of Korchinski, Ethan Del Mastro, and Allan will also be in the mix.
Allan’s time in Rockford starts this season and he’ll have a chance to take the next step. His numbers were not bad in Seattle, for all the questions surrounding the other side of his game. Though it was a step back statistically from a 2021-22 season where he had 41 points (6-35) in 65 games, he notched a combined 27 points with Prince Albert and Seattle. 11 of those, including seven in Seattle, were goals.
So much for the no offense argument. Does it mean he’s going to be the second coming of Cale Makar? Hardly. But tying Korchinski in goals is something to take note of. Allan chipped in 10 points during the playoffs, two of those finding the back of the net.
Blackhawks Full Time ETA: 2024-25
So what does it all mean? (Bonus points to anyone reading who added “Basil” to that question). Allan may very well round out into what the previous regime envisioned–with a little more offensive upside than expected. Allan’s strengths are in his end of the ice. Scouting reports emphasize his intelligence and gap control on the ice, hallmarks of what a winning team usually has in abundance with its defensemen.
I hemmed and hawed a bit between Rinzel and Allan but ultimately sided with Allan here because he’s already strong in his game where he should be.
It’s the offensive side that still has room to grow. It’s also less where the Blackhawks need to worry with the likes of Korchinski and Del Mastro around. Rinzel is the opposite–a good skating right hand shot who has admittedly spoken about his need to improve in his own end.
Rinzel (who will be written about on Sunday as an honorable mention) will have more than enough chances to work this out with the University of Minnesota where he’ll log big minutes and play against some of the best teams in college hockey.
Allan gets the final spot in our numbered rankings, hardly forgotten, and also still having some room to not only move up here, but potentially to Chicago as soon as next season.
CHN’s Top 10 Blackhawks Prospects Ranked: